Here at DollKind.com, we have written about Little Girl Dolls and Little Women Dolls but missing from our collection has been a tribute to the Little Boy Dolls created by the Madame Alexander Doll Company. Though female character dolls have always outnumbered the male ones in the Madame Alexander doll catalogue, just as much creativity and care has been put into them. Today, we’re going to look at some of the most charming little boy dolls from the 20th century and afterwards, let’s discuss their appeal and social significance.
|I grew up in a large family in which the girls outnumbered the boys 4 to 1. While we loved and even idolized big brother, our home was definitely dominated by girlhood and dolls were everywhere, sitting on shelves, sleeping in tiny cradles, lying on beds, occupying the sinks and bathtubs. My mother still has Fisher Price Little People adorning her kitchen window sill. Dolls were a big part of our lives, and I am positive that the chance to role play with them, to love them, formed a part of we girls’ characters. My brother, on the other hand, did not have ‘dolls’. He had action figures and an alarming karate punching puppet, but after he grew beyond his childhood stuffed animals, he didn’t really have soft, endearing playthings.||
A great deal has been written about the potential value of giving dolls to little boys, and it can be good, too, for girls to own boy character dolls. And in the whole host of 20th century dolls, no boy dolls are more deserved of consideration that those developed by the Madame Alexander Doll Company. I well remember how my mother would practically weep over the dearness of some of the little boy dolls in the tiny booklet that came with each Madame Alexander doll we girls were given. I’m sure she was remembering when her son was small and chubby, pink cheeked and adorable. To me, these dolls capture that charm of little boyhood like no other dolls can do.
Above, we have what is almost certainly one of the most recognizable of all Madame Alexander’s 8″ little boy dolls. This is the ‘Red Boy Doll’, dated 1983. This doll pays tribute to the famous early-19th century portrait by Sir Thomas Lawrence that came to be called ‘The Red Boy’ and which actually depicted a real little boy named Master Charles William Lambton. It was commissioned by the boy’s father and was a work of critical acclaim in Europe.
Madame Alexander’s Little Red Boy is a boy doll of striking and memorable contrasts. His dark chin-length hair and dark eyes are set off by his sumptuous red velvet suit trimmed with fine white lace and finished off by a fat satin sash. Sweet white satin slippers adorn his little feet. He looks as plush as a pincushion, as plump and cheery as an apple. To any one with a jot of the maternal instinct, he is irresistible – wouldn’t you just love to give him a cuddle and a hug?
I find the above doll to be slightly haunting when I think of the histories of the Civil War which I’ve read that tell of boys no bigger than 12 running off to join the army, on both sides. I daresay, if women had always had the management of things, we would have no wars, and so this doll tugs at the heartstrings.
Dressed in his dark blue union army uniform, he is one of many male character dolls created by the Madame Alexander Doll Company in their ‘Scarlett’ series based on Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With The Wind. Other male dolls in the series include a Rhett Butler Doll, an Ashley Wilkes Doll and even a Mr. Gerald O’Hara Doll. Over the decades, many different versions have been released.
When I was a girl, we owned the Scarlett O’Hara doll in her white ruffle dress with green sash and diamond brooch and I thought her exquisite, but this was before I grew up and understood the controversial nature of this book that has been widely criticized for its sunny portrayal of slavery. As an adult, I wouldn’t consider the unsavory character of Rhett Butler or the moral failings of Ashley Wilkes to be fit subjects for a child’s plaything, and the fact that the role of the union solider is that he is shot by Scarlett O’Hara when he breaks into her home is also far from being a charming story.
Nevertheless, it is irrefutable that Madame Alexander’s ‘Scarlett’ doll series continues to be avidly sought by grownup doll collectors who are die-hard fans of the story and this has made a history of its own. As for boys playing with solider dolls – they always have, but it would be a better world, I think, if the idea of war was unknown. Isn’t it interesting how a single doll can represent so many ideas and stir up so much thought?
Here’s an 8″ Storybook boy doll with a much happier origin. He is the 1979 Laurie Doll from the Little Women Dolls series based on the classic novel of Louisa May Alcott. Far from being a controversial story, this is a tale that has been beloved for some 150 years by readers of all ages and the Laurie Doll is sought after to complete the set of Meg, Jo, Beth, Amy and Marme.
I just love the navy peacoat with brass buttons and matching cap of this friendly little fellow. He is absolutely successful as a little boy doll. His big brown eyes seem to invite confidences, a game of marbles, a run across the lawn or even a quiet walk through his grandfather’s splendid conservatory. It’s worth noting here, too, how Madame Alexander’s little boy dolls often get special treatment with their footwear. Most of the 20th century girl dolls wore the same little black velvet slippers but Laurie Laurence has some very charming half-boots on. A really nice finishing touch!
This gem-like Prince Charming Doll from 1993 provides a prime example of the opulent hand with which the Madame Alexander Doll Company is capable of costuming its dolls. The 8″ doll is dressed in the fashions of the late 1700s, with blue breeches, blue velvet waistcoat and white lace ruff and cuffs. It is his bejeweled blue and gold greatcoat that really works magic with this doll. It glitters and gleams and certainly marks Prince Charming as royal. His ‘silk’ hose is white and his little slippers are of black satin. In keeping with the age, his long hair is pulled back in a queue (a ponytail) and a be-plumed tri-cornered had perches atop his brunette locks. All of these touches add up to an exquisite wardrobe for this handsomely detailed boy doll.
Today’s little boys grow up in a world of jeans and t-shirts with the business suit marking the greatest effort they see men making to appear well-dressed. DollKind.com will be the first to admit that modern sensibilities towards comfort and informality in dress certainly make happy laid-back living easier, but I think it’s important to teach boys that in other eras, men took greatest care with their appearance in order to appear dignified and grand. From the incomparable woven blankets of Navajo Indian men to the top hats and tails of the early 20th century, from the flowing togas of the ancient Greeks to the silken, embroidered robes of ancient Chinese nobility, men of the past wished to be seen as figures of splendor. This is quite natural, for remember, in nature it is almost always the male of the species who has the most gorgeous feathers and finest fur!
I think this Prince Charming Doll provides a wonderful vehicle for teaching little boys and girls about the colorful history of men’s dress. I think it builds esteem to let little boys know that, once upon a time, men were so proud of themselves that they considered themselves ‘lords of creation’. It lets them know that even if, today, they shear off their tresses and refuse to part with that one flannel shirt that is so ragged it’s practically see-through, they are still noble beings with a right to feel good about themselves.
Since she made her first cloth dolls in the 1920s, Madame Alexander and her company have made too many phenomenal bride dolls to count. But you can’t have a wedding all by yourself, and so here he is – a 1990 Groom Doll. Several very fine groom dolls have been released in wonderfully detailed clothing. The one above wears a morning coat, cravat, vest and striped trousers. Perhaps most appealing of all to little girls and ladies- he carries a beautifully-wrapped gift which I am sure is for his bride.
As girls, our dreams of romance are vague but sweet, and we hope that when we grow up, we will find that perfect companion. I’m smiling as I look at this little boy doll all dressed up as a groom because it puts me in mind of my youngest sister’s wedding. Not only did her groom shower her with diamonds, he sent her to a spa for a full day session the day before their wedding and when the celebration was over, he had a limousine awaiting her to take them on a moonlit ride along the coast before they set off on their honeymoon in the tropics. Talk about romance! Perhaps if little boys played with groom dolls as charming as these, every girl would grow up to one day find Prince Charming.
And now we come to dolls that have always been among my most favorite of all the creations of Madame Alexander – the International Dolls. The above little boy doll represents Austria. With his lederhosen with embroidered braces, short green jacket and felt Tyrolean hat, he looks as if he just stepped out of the pages of a beautifully illustrated children’s World Atlas. He is a brown eyed, blonde doll with rounded face and pink cheeks that make him look as if he’s been walking in the Austrian Alps.
I studied all of the International Dolls so minutely as a girl and can attest that they fostered in me such friendly feelings towards children around the world that I have never lost this sense of warm friendship. For this Austria little boy doll, I can imagine that he will one day grow up to become a gold medal-winning Olympic skiier and that his whole home town in the quiet Austrian countryside will welcome him home with banquets and songs. Did you have this dear little boy doll? What did you imagine about him? Can you remember?
The above doll is another icon of the International doll collection that has been beloved for decades. He represents the Netherlands. His pants look almost black in the photo, but they are, in fact, a deep blue which contrasts richly with his tulip-red jacket. His legs are clad in red-and-white striped stockings – like candy canes! His blonde pageboy haircut is surmounted by a jaunty black cap and most memorable of all, he wears his wooden clogs. Dressed as he is, he might have skated right out of the pages of Hans Brinker or The Silver Skates and his cheeks looks as if they have gotten roses in them from racing about on a frozen pond.
This little boy doll is a paramount example of the skill of artists who design clothing for the Madame Alexander Doll Company. When you stand this dandy boy up next to his companion doll – the little Netherlands girl in her winged white cap – it is easy to see why no other doll company has ever bested Madame Alexander in terms of variety or recognition of quality. If you are teaching a little boy or girl about the way in which we are all connected to all of the Earth’s peoples, I can think of no better vehicle of instruction than a doll like this Little Netherlands Boy and a few good books from the library.
If the above little boy doll reminds you of the Austrian boy shown earlier, it is because he is Hansel and his fairytale origins reside amongst the peoples of countries like Austria and Germany. It is believed that fairytales and folktales represent some of the most ancient remnants of European culture. Like children’s games, they are passed down for hundreds or thousands of years, with no adult paying too much attention to them, nor realizing just how incredibly old they are.
Modern readers are often shocked to read the sometimes violent details of the earliest written fairytales, but ancient peoples living in wilder lands likely had good reason to warn one another and their children of the dangers of dark forests and the perceived uncanny forces of nature and man. Thankfully, the wit of little Hansel saves he and Gretel from the evil witch who wants to eat them. Madame Alexander’s little Hansel Doll certainly looks sturdy and clever enough to be up to the task! In his red shorts and cap and blue floral shirt, he is both colorful and charming and one feels confident looking into his face that he will outsmart the witch and save the day.
With his two bare feet firmly planted on American soil, this Huckleberry Finn Doll by Madame Alexander is ready to fish for his supper and ford any river on his trusty raft. Don’t tell him he’s not equal to it! With his rolled-up patched denim jeans and red plaid shirt, he looks as rough and tumble as the character described with such celebrated detail in Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer. The wig of this doll really sets him apart. It is wonderfully curly and a fetching shade of light auburn, topped by a ‘worn’ straw hat to complete the picture.
Through the years, the Madame Alexander Doll Company has chosen to represent so many different characters in their Storybook Doll line, and I think they truly hit home with this one. What a real little American boy he is, right down to his rope-tied trousers. I can’t help but think that Mark Twain would have smiled to see him, and I am sure he would bring hours of happy play to boys and girls alike.
Where To Find Madame Alexander’s Fantastic Boy Dolls
Dollkind.com highly recommends Coinspaubet on eBay which has a huge selection of excellent and mint condition Madame Alexander Dolls and offers very professional service. Please also visit the ebay store of Donna’s Toys and Collectibles for wonderful Madame Alexander Dolls and more. DollKind.com sincerely thanks these two sellers for their gracious permission to display many of the photos that accompany this article!
Should Boys Play With Dolls?
This is up to each parent to decide, of course, but much thought has been given to the concept of raising boys so that they are compassionate and capable of becoming able and devoted husbands and fathers. Playing with a doll of any gender can help teach a boy to be gentle with a ‘baby’, to role play nurturing scenarios and to be imaginative when playing, just as it can with a girl. Granted, once a male child is sent into the melting pot of public school, he is bound to run into the idea that dolls are for girls only and this message will likely result in him feeling shamed if he wishes to play with dolls. But prior to this, a boy should be given ample opportunities to play with whatever toys appeal to him, free from biased messaging from any adult or older child. Let each boy be true to himself.
|In the 1970s, many parents tried to re-think cultural norms about boys and dolls and major manufacturers began producing a selection of boy dolls. For infants, there was the blue gingham boy counterpart to pink Lolly Dolly – Cholly Doll created by Fisher Price. There was also a cloth doll with plastic head by Fisher Price called the Honeyboy Lapsitter Doll, along the lines of the Little Girl Dolls/Lapsitter Dolls. Fisher Price made another special effort with their ‘Mikey’ My Friend Dolls.||
The 1980s-1990s saw the introduction of the famous ‘My Buddy’ doll by Playskool that was popular enough to have a major television commercial and the craze of Cabbage Patch Kids included many boy dolls. And countless sets of dollhouse families like The Littles included father and brother dolls to make complete families.
Fitting Madame Alexander’s Little Boy Dolls Into The Picture
For nearly 100 years, the Madame Alexander Doll Company has been creating dolls that make it possible to give a boy to doll to a boy. I would hazard that, owing to the exceptional care put into the clothing, little boys would benefit from this experience the same way that many little girl do – their imagination and artistic talents would be appealed to. Some people might think it odd that a little boy would concern himself with matters of dress, but did you ever meet a little boy who wasn’t wild about dressing up for Hallowe’en? He cares about his costume every bit as much as any girl does.
And let’s not forget that men have forged careers of fame and fortune for themselves in the world of clothing and design, from Charles Frederick Worth of the celebrated House of Worth onward. The majority of the world’s most acclaimed painters, sculptors, designers, architects, writers and musicians are men, and all of them have earned a name for themselves through talented artistic expression. Playing with Madame Alexander’s little boy dolls will introduce children of both genders to the art of period costuming, to personified interesting characters from famous novels and ancient folk tales and to the integral part boys and men play in society.
Children come into the world as blank slates, with no prejudices and no concepts of gender or gender roles. What they subsequently learn they learn from us, and so it is each parent’s choice about the options for play with which they fill a child’s life. Madame Alexander’s little boy dolls offer unparalleled quality in the world of dolls and it is our hope at DollKind.com that no little boy who reaches out for a wonderfully-made boy doll will be refused.
What do you think? What are the benefits of boys and girls playing with all kinds of dolls? As a child, did playing with father and brother dolls or boy character dolls charm you? What did it teach you? As a parent or teacher, do you encourage all children to play with dolls? Why? DollKind.com would love to know and we so hope this look at the creative little boy dolls of Madame Alexander has warmed your heart and made you reflect.